Chapter 4: Structuring, Paragraphing, and Styling

4.1 Basic Essay Structure

Emilie Zickel and Charlotte Morgan

Essays written for an academic audience follow a structure with which you are likely familiar: Intro, Body, Conclusion. Here is a general overview of what each of those sections “does” in the larger essay.

Be aware, however, that certain assignments and certain professors may ask for additional content or require unusual formatting, so always be sure to read the assignment sheet as carefully as possible.

Introductory Section

This paragraph is the “first impression” paragraph. It needs to make an impression on the reader so that he or she becomes interested, understands your goal in the paper, and wants to read on. The intro often ends with the thesis (meaning, the thesis is the last sentence of the intro).

  • Use the Intro to make sure that your reader knows what the topic of your essay is.
    • However, avoid phrases like, “the topic of this essay is . . . “
  • Offer some context or background information about your topic.
    • Is there controversy surrounding this topic? Provide a sentence or two of both sides
    • Has this topic been an important one for awhile? How long? How so?
    • Is this a topic with which you have some personal connection or interest? Briefly describe that connection or interest
  • Make sure that you use the Introduction to lead in  to your thesis. Your introduction should build up to the thesis statement
  • Conclude your Intro with your thesis. The thesis should be one to two sentences that provide a clear focus and direction for the rest of the essay.
    • Avoid phrasing like, “In this essay, I will discuss . . . ” or “This essay will describe . . . . “.

Body of the Essay

The Body of the Essay is where you fully develop the main idea or thesis outlined in the introduction. Each paragraph within the body of the essay enlarges one major point in the development of the overall argument (although some points may consist of several sub-points, each of which will need its own paragraph). Each paragraph should contain the following elements:

  • Clearly state the main point in each paragraph in the form of a topic sentence.
  • Then, support that point with evidence.
  • Provide an explanation of the evidence’s significance. Highlight the way the main point shows the logical steps in the argument and link back to the claim you make in your thesis statement.

Remember to make sure that you focus on a single idea, reason, or example that supports your thesis in each body paragraph. Your topic sentence (a mini thesis that states the main idea of the paragraph), should contain details and specific examples to make your ideas clear and convincing) (Morgan).

Details on how to build strong paragraphs can be found in section 4.2.


Many people struggle with the conclusion, not knowing how to end a paper without simply restating the paper’s thesis and main points. In fact, one of the earliest ways that we learn to write conclusions involves the “summarize and restate” method of repeating the points that you have already discussed.

While that method can be an effective way to perhaps begin a conclusion, the strongest conclusions will go beyond rehashing the key ideas from the paper. Just as the intro is the first impression, the conclusion is the last impression–and you do want your writing to make a lasting impression.

Below are some options for writing a compelling conclusion:

  • What is the significance of the ideas you developed in this paper? Why does the work that you did in the essay matter?
  • How does the information contained in your paper affect you, others like you, people in your community, or people in other communities?
  • You spent an essay focused on this topic. Beyond your own focus on this topic, what must be done? What other actions, outside of thinking and writing about this topic, are needed?
  • What research could be done on the topic of your paper?
  • What important things did you learn from the process of writing the paper? (* use this strategy only if reflection is welcomed as part of the conclusion)


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ENG 100/101/102 at Cleveland State University by Emilie Zickel and Charlotte Morgan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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